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Declining CD sales cannot be blamed on the rise of internet file-sharing networks, according to a new report into the state of the global online digital music industry.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report found a "pronounced" fall in overall global CD sales of 20 per cent between 1999 and 2003, while the number of simultaneous users on all peer-to-peer networks reached almost 10 million in October 2004.
Digital music piracy is acknowledged as a problem by the OECD but the report cites other factors - such as the rise in the number of entertainment sources - as being more likely to have had a significant impact on music sales.
"It is very difficult to establish a basis to prove a causal relationship between the size of the drop in music sales and the rise of file sharing. Sales of CDs, as well as the success of licensed online music services are likely to have been affected to some degree by a variety of other factors, for example physical piracy and CD burning, competition from other, newer entertainment products and faltering consumer spending in some markets," the report said.
And while there was a large fall in CD sales in the US, other countries, including France, Germany, Japan and the UK, actually experienced steady or growing CD sales.
The OECD questions the viability of some music download business models and warns that the music industry needs to find a balance between reducing online piracy and developing models that are attractive to consumers, as well as providing existing and new participants in the online music arena with a growing stream of revenue for the creation and legitimate distribution of original recordings.
The report said: "Online music providers still seem to struggle making profits at current prices, with demand growing from low levels and having to compete against unauthorized downloading. In the current, low-volume market, digital economies of scale have not yet been realized. Some of the fixed costs of labels to produce artists stay essentially the same as before. Moreover, the digital distribution of songs is far from costless."